Kedah Sultanate

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Sultanate of Kedah
كسلطانن قدح
Kesultanan Kedah
Independent (1136-1909)
Protectorate of the United Kingdom (1909-1941; 1945-1946)
Kedah in present-day Malaysia
Capital Sungai Petani 1537 - 1833

Kota Selama 1833 -1888

Alor Setar 1888 -1946

Languages Malay2

Kedah Malay Hokkien, Teochew

Religion Sunni Islam
Political structure Monarchy
 •  1136-1179 Mudzaffar Shah I (first)
 •  1943-1958 Badlishah (last)
 •  1909–1915; 1918–1919 George Maxwell
Historical era Early modern period
 •  Conversion to Islam 1136
 •  Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 9 July 1909
 •  Japanese occupation 16 February 1942
 •  Annexed by Thailand 18 October 1943
 •  Japanese surrender; returned to United Kingdom 14 August 1945
 •  Added into Malayan Union 31 March 1946
Currency Native gold and silver coins
Straits dollar (until 1939)
Malayan dollar (until 1953)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kedah Kingdom
Malayan Union
Today part of  Malaysia
1 Remains as capital until today
2 Malay using Jawi (Arabic) script
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The Kedah Sultanate is a Muslim dynasty located in the Malay Peninsula. Originally an independent state, it became a British Protectorate in 1909. Its monarchy was abolished after it was added to the Malayan Union but was restored and added to the Malayan Union's successor, the Federation of Malaya.

The information regarding the formation of this sultanate and the history before and after its creation comes from the "Kedah Annals". The Kedah Annals were written in the eighteenth century, over a millennium after the formation of the Kedah Kingdom. It describes the first king of Kedah as arriving on the shores of Kedah as a result of an attack by a mythical gigantic beast. It states that the nation was founded by the offspring of Alexander the Great; who maintained ties with Rome throughout his reign (oddly two centuries after the decline of the Roman Empire due to sacks by the Visigoths and Vandals in 410 and 455).

The Kedah Annals also provide us with very unreliable information regarding the sultans of Kedah. Listing the first sultan of Kedah as Sultan Mudzafar Shah I centuries before the partitioning of the Abbasid Caliphate into distinct sultanates and almost three centuries prior to the contradictory claims of the Terengganu Inscription Stone. This claim also directly contradicts the fact that the Buddhist Srivijaya kingdom was in direct control of Kedah at the time that Sultan Mudzafar Shah I allegedly converted the region to a sultanate.


Map of the early Kadaha kingdom and the Early transpeninsular routeway
Ancient artefact found in Kedah

Around 170 CE a group of native refugees of Hindu faith arrived at Kedah, joining them soon were peoples from nearby islands and from the northern Mon-Khmer region.[citation needed] Ancient Kedah covered the areas of Kuala Bahang, Kuala Bara, Kuala Pila and Merpah, and the inhabitants of Kedah appointed Tun Derma Dewa and Tun Perkasa as their village chiefs.

The king from Gemeron[edit]

In 630 CE, Maharaja Derbar Raja of Gemeron (now known as Bandar Abbas) in Persia was defeated in battle and escaped to Sri Lanka, and he was later blown off course by a storm to the remote shores of Kuala Sungai Qilah, Kedah.[citation needed] The inhabitants of Kedah found him to be a valiant and intelligent person, and they made him the king of Kedah. In 634 CE, a new kingdom was formed in Kedah consisting of Persian royalty and native Malay of Hindu faith, the capital was Langkasuka.[citation needed]

Conversion to Islam[edit]

Based on the account given in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa (also known as the Kedah Annals), the Sultanate of Kedah started in year 1136 when King Phra Ong Mahawangsa converted to Islam and adopted the name Sultan Mudzafar Shah. However, an Acehnese account gave a date of 1474 for the year of conversion to Islam by the ruler of Kedah. This later date accords with an account in the Malay Annals where a raja of Kedah visited Malacca during the reign of its last sultan seeking the honour of the royal band that marks the sovereignty of a Muslim ruler.[1]

List of rulers[edit]

The list of rulers of Kedah as given here is based to some extent on the Kedah Annals beginning with the Hindu ruler Durbar Raja I. According to the Kedah Annals, the 9th Kedah Maharaja Derbar Raja converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah, thereby started the Kedah Sultanate.[2] The historicity and the dating of the list of rulers however is questionable as Kedah may have remained Hindu-Buddhist until the 15th century when its king converted to Islam.[3]

Hindu era[edit]

The following is a list of kings of Kadaram, nine in total. Each used the Hindu title of Sri Paduka Maharaja. The exact dates of each king's reign are not known.

  1. Durbar Raja I (330–390)
  2. Diraja Putra (390-440)
  3. Maha Dewa I (440-465)
  4. Karna Diraja (465-512)
  5. Karma (512-580)
  6. Maha Dewa II (580-620)
  7. Maha Dewa III (620-660)
  8. Diraja Putra II (660-712)
  9. Darma Raja (712-788)
  10. Maha Jiwa (788-832)
  11. Karma II (832-880)
  12. Darma Raja II (880-956)
  13. Durbar Raja II (956–1136; succeeded as Sultan of Kedah, see below)
Source for the list of sultans is the Muzium Negeri Kedah, Alor Setar, Malaysia. "The sultans of Kedah".[citation needed]

Islamic era[edit]

The beginning of the use of the title sultan in Kedah is attributed to a visit by a Muslim scholar from Yemen, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ja'afar Quamiri, to Durbar Raja II's palace at Bukit Mariam in 1136.[citation needed] The audience resulted in the king's conversion to Islam. He adopted the name "Mudzaffar Shah" and established the sultanate of Kedah, which continues to rule today.[2]

The source for the list of sultans given here is the official genealogy given for the Sultan of Kedah.[4] There are however discrepancies with the Kedah Annals as it lists only 5 sultans from the first convert Mudzaffar Shah to Sulaiman Shah who was captured by Aceh in 1619, in contrast to the twelve listed here. The rest of the list largely follows as that given in the Kedah Annals with the exception of a few changes and more recent updates in the 20th and 21th century.[5]

Sultans of Kedah
Number Sultan Reign
1 Mudzaffar Shah I 1136–1179
2 Mu'adzam Shah l 1179–1201
3 Muhammad Shah l 1201–1236
4 Mudzaffar Shah II 1236–1280
5 Mahmud Shah I 1280– 1321
6 Ibrahim Shah l 1321– 1373
7 Sulaiman Shah I 1373–1422
8 Ataullah Muhammad Shah I 1422–1472
9 Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Mu'adzam Shah I 1472–1506
10 Mahmud Shah II 1506–1546
11 Mudzaffar Shah III 1546–1602
12 Sulaiman Shah II 1602–1625
13 Rijaluddin Muhammad Shah l 1625–1651
14 Muhyiddin Mansur Shah 1651–1661
15 Dzhuiaddin Mukarram Shah I 1661–1687
16 Ataullah Muhammad Shah II 1687–1698
17 Abdullah Mu'adzam Shah 1698–1706
18 Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah I 1706–1709
19 Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Mu'adzam Shah II 1710–1778
20 Abdullah Mukarram Shah l 1778–1797
21 Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II 1797–1843
22 Zainal Rashid Al-Mu'adzam Shah I 1843–1854
23 Ahmad Tajuddin Mukarram Shah 1854–1879
24 Zainal Rashid Mu'adzam Shah II 1879–1881
25 Abdul Hamid Halim Shah ll 1881–1943
26 Badlishah Shah 1943–1958
27 Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah 1958–2017
28 Mahmud Sallehuddin Mu'adzam Shah 2017- present



The Nobat musical instruments of Nagara and Nepiri were introduced to Kedah by Maharaja Derbar Raja. The instrument is also called semambu. The band is led by the king, and it consists of drums, a gong, a flute and a trumpet. Today, Nobat is a Royal orchestra, played only during royal ceremonies such as inaugurations, weddings, and funerals. The building which houses the instruments and where the ensemble rehearses is known as the Balai Nobat, literally the Office of Nobat, in Alor Setar city proper.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Winstedt, Richard (December 1936). "Notes on the History of Kedah". Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 14 (3 (126)): 155–189. 
  2. ^ a b "Kedah: Intro and Background". Capslock Sdn Bhd. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  3. ^ "The Development of Kedah's Early History Based on Archeological Finds". MyKedah. 
  4. ^ Kedah State Public Library (2003). "The genealogy of His Highnesses". Our Sultan. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  5. ^ R. O. Winstedt (December 1938). "The Kedah Annals". Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 16 (2 (131)): 31–35. 


External links[edit]